Bangkok, 20 February, 2020 – The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) would like to share some information from the Ministry of Public Health regarding Thailand’s quick action against the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19).
In my capacity as Deputy Permanent Secretary and Spokesman for the Ministry of Public Health, I, Dr. Narong Saiwong, would like to clarify certain points concerning a critical remark by a Harvard epidemiologist, on 19 February 2020, that cast doubt on Thailand’s ability to contain the spread of the COVID-19.
H.E. Mr. Anutin Charnvirakul, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Health, in a long-distance video call from Sweden, said that the Prime Minister made it clear that the statistics of all infection cases (in the country) must be made public without alteration or concealment. The Ministry of Public Health has put in place a very strict system of monitoring and containment of the COVID-19. All suspected persons are screened and examined by medical professionals. If clinically identified, the patients will be quarantined without delay and given expert care and supervision. Updates and reports of these stringent measures at all points of entry are given to reporters and the public all the time. There is full public confidence in the information issued by the Ministry of Public Health.
Dr. Sophon Iamsirithaworn, Director of the Communicable Disease Division, responded to the concern made by an epidemiologist from a foreign university, that Thailand’s reported figures of COVID-19 infections were too low, considering the air traffic flow. Dr. Sophon insisted that the Royal Thai Government gave top priority to safeguarding public health and safety. Budget allocations and orders were issued to the Ministry of Public Health to strictly screen all passengers from countries affected by the COVID-19 epidemic. The containment measure began on 3 January, 2020. At the time, there had not yet been reports of any human-to-human transmission of the COVID-19. As such, Thailand was the first country that began screening all passengers flying from the infected country (China), particularly from the epicentre. On 8 January, 2020, Thailand was the first country to confirm an infected person travelling from China at the airport. The moment the case was confirmed by the lab test similar to tests done in China, the news was immediately made known to the public. Subsequently, all points of entry were subject to stringent screening measures for those travelling from the infected zones. As a result, several at-risk countries in the region and elsewhere, e.g., the US and Japan promptly followed Thailand’s example. Prof. Dr. Lincoln C. Chen, an expert in international health at Harvard University, praised Thailand and H.E. Mr. Anutin Charnvirakul, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Health, for raising the bar, compared to other countries in the region, in taking quick action and preparations for countering the COVID-19.
Dr. Sophon said that at first Thailand found a steady increase in infection cases, which were mostly Chinese tourists and close contacts. After China prohibited all outbound international travel for its citizens, the infection cases found began to decline, relative to the decrease in Chinese visitors. To raise confidence, the Ministry of Public Health and the related agencies expanded the screening and detection measures to cover all local personnel who serve or are in close proximity to the visitors. Visitors travelling from countries with reported infections are also screened as further precaution. All local places or destinations with large gatherings are subjected to regular screening and evaluation. One Thai staff, who never travelled overseas but came in close contact with Chinese visitors, was reportedly found infected. All in all, the COVID-19 was contained rapidly in Thailand, with no additional patients to date.
“We quickly learned of the situation and promptly provided protection. All sectors in Thailand were aware of the situation via the facts and updates given by the Ministry of Public Health. Everyone quickly rose to the occasion and gave full, vigorous cooperation for containment. Public transport, shops, businesses, and the public readily follow the protection instructions and recommendations given by the authorities. That’s why we are praised by the international community,” said Dr. Sophon.
*The above information has been translated directly from the statement in Thai-language.
**Featured image: A daily press conference at the Ministry of Public Health on 19 February, 2020. (Credit: Department of Disease Control Facebook Page)